You wouldn’t expect one of the strongest horror offerings at a world renowned film festival to come from a couple of dudes known for TV romcoms and family films—but here were are. Anything for Jackson, from director Justin G. Dyck and writer Keith Cooper, isn’t just one of the most surprising things to come out of Fantasia 2020, it’s one of the best. Dealing with concepts such as love, death, possession, and eternity itself, Anything for Jackson walks a tightrope between humor and horror with tremendous success. But don’t let the comedy label confuse you, Dyck and Cooper have constructed something far more terrifying than amusing.

Viewers follow an elderly couple mourning the death of their grandson, Jackson. Now card-carrying Satanists, the couple abducts a pregnant young woman with the intent of placing the spirit of their deceased grandson into the body of the woman’s unborn child. If I’m being honest, it’s not a bad idea. But as you might expect, things don’t go according to plan and the couple finds themselves battling multiple demons and spirits all working to inhabit the newly provided host. It’s a whacky concept, but it’s far heavier and more gruesome than you might expect.

… a dark, violent, and intense work of horror full of spine-tingling atmosphere and well-timed scares.

The various spirits are brought to life on-screen through the use of truly fantastic practical effects–up to and including a contortionist that is hell-bent on making you lose your lunch. Or dinner–whatever. The encounters between the couple and their Satanic “club” are lighthearted enough to earn the comedy label, but make no mistake–Anything for Jackson is a dark, violent, and intense work of horror full of spine-tingling atmosphere and well-timed scares. It quite literally turns the possession genre on its head in the best way imaginable.

All the way to its bleak and dreadful conclusion, Anything for Jackson proves once again that iteration can be the key to innovation. Dyck and Cooper aren’t re-inventing possession movies, but they come pretty close. The inclusion of the more comedic elements are well placed and keep things from getting too dark to be commercially viable. And thanks to exceptional cinematography from Sasha Moric and Stephen Chandler Whitehead, it looks like a million bucks too. The horror genre is all about surprises, and these guys just surprised the hell out of everyone. I can’t wait to see what comes next. Watch Anything for Jackson as soon as you can.

Anything for Jackson made its world premiere at the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival.